Mabie Todd Swan 6


I love these big sixes!  They don’t turn up as often as they used to and when they do they’re quite expensive now.  They’re worth every penny though.
This one isn’t quite as immaculate as it looks in these pictures.  The black hard rubber section is faded and the high points of the clip have lost some of their plating.  Still, that’s not bad for 60-odd years.  This splendid nib is still glorious and the plastic buffed up well.
This was not a pen for the average person unless they were a real enthusiast.  It was the doctor’s pen or the lawyer’s, or maybe even the bank manager’s, though back in those days they tended to be paid in the hundreds rather than today’s millions!
Regardless of who bought it when it was new, it would have been regarded as a lifetime’s investment.  And I’m sure it would have been, if ballpoint pens had not come along and spoiled the game!

A pen like this really does put us in touch with its past.  There were never all that many of them and they were bought with a purpose other than just writing.  This was a pen that was intended to make their owner feel good about him or herself and it was intended to impress those with whom he had dealings.  I’m sure it did.  All these years later it still impresses me!


Green Lizardskin Swan


Here’s another snakeskin (or is that lizard skin?  I’m never sure unless I have them side-by-side) Swan.  It’s not the usual type, which is a little more tapered and has a black hard rubber lever.  I suspect that this shape and style is a little later than those ones, perhaps running into and through World War II.

I love to grab these whenever I can because they are so beautiful, but restoring them can be a task fraught with anxiety.  The plastic that these pens are made from has a tendency to shrink – only very slightly – but enough to make removal of the section a protracted business with much heating and reheating.
It’s always worth the effort, and this one is especially nice.  It has no number on the base of the barrel but it would be an SM1/88.  That reminds me that 88 is “Green Lizard”, so that solves that problem!  There isn’t, so far as I am aware, a green snakeskin though there is a blue/green snakeskin.
Yes, for once, that pointy nib does indicate flexibility.  I haven’t had time to write test it yet but just pushing against my finger suggests it’s a full flex.

Another Swan SM100/59


I’ve been very lucky with the Italian marble Swans this year.  Quite a few have turned up, most of them going for a reasonable – or at least affordable – price.  This is a Swan Minor with a number one nib.  Certain ranges of Swans seemed to be invariably flexible and these multicoloured pens are among them. This one is fine with a lot of flexibility and instant snap-back.
There isn’t much more to say about these pens that I haven’t said already, so enough wittering from me.  Enjoy the photographs!

IMGP7817 IMGP7816 IMGP7815

A Gold-Filled Swan Leverless


Here’s a nice little box.  What can be in there?
It’s a full-sized (13.7 cm) gold filled Swan which, for once, we can date precisely to 1947 – or even more precisely to 28 February 1947.  It’s a very elegant, understated pen.  By this late date these gold filled overlay pens were being made in Britain rather than in America.
The complete inscription reads “Fredk J Hampson.  28th February 1947”.  There is no clue as to the significance of the date, whether it be a birthday, a retiral or some other major signpost along the path of life – in particular, the life of Fred J Hampson.  It’s not a particularly common name, and I found two potential candidates.  The 1901 Census for Lambeth, London includes a Frederick J Hampson, born in 1896 and the youngest of a family of eight.  It’s quite possible that this was his pen.
There was also a company by the name of Frederick J Hampson in Atlantic Street, Broadheath, Altrincham, Cheshire.  The company was dissolved a year after the date of this inscription, in 1948.  Significant?  Coincidental?  I don’t know.

This is a Leverless, which looks especially good as an overlay pen.  The turn button at the end of the barrel is nicely finished and integrated into the smooth streamlining.  The date is not insignificant in Swan’s history.  It was in that and the following year that the plans were laid and production initiated for the cigar-shaped pens that followed this type.  It would be interesting to know what they did for presentation pens in that later style.  I’ve never seen one and perhaps Swan chose to remain with the elegant lines of this Leverless and the similarly slender and elegant Swan Minor 2.
Beautiful as it is, it’s not an ornament and it has clearly been used, though carefully.  There is a pinhead dent in the top Of the cap, and there is a little loss of gold at the end of the section next to the nib which has been caused by the more caustic inks of the mid-century.  Otherwise, it is in superb condition, showing little evidence of its age.  It remains a very usable pen to this day, with a good ink capacity and a splendidly flexible fine/medium nib.


An Exceptional Blackbird

I love a pen with a good story and very often the story attaches to a personalisation so I’m certainly not one of those who dislikes engraved names and initials on old pens.
Under other circumstances this would be a very ordinary Blackbird.  However, it was owned by L W Hyde who was a medical doctor practising at different times in South Africa and South America.  The pen is discoloured to dark brown, perhaps by the subtropical sun.  It seems likely that Dr Hyde had no issue, as his effects ended up in a box in a friend’s attic.  Recently, the friend’s grandson found the box and among other treasures of a bygone era was this Blackbird in a handmade oak box.
Having our knowledge of the item enhanced in this way elevates the pen from being yet another anonymous example of that model to a valued link with the past.  We don’t know all that much about the long-deceased doctor but his practice in these far-off places makes him, and hence the pen, quite exceptional.  It’s impossible to feel the same way about Dr Hyde’s pen as one would feel about a pen that turned up with no provenance attached.
For a moment I thought he might be the eponymous hero of RL Stevenson’s “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” but of course he’s Doctor not Mr Hyde and he would have had to be very long-lived to be that entirely fictional character.
I would have liked to have had some assistance from my assistant with this article but she was otherwise occupied: sleeping.  She was out carousing until 4:30 AM.  Would that I had her social life!

Mabie Todd Swan Minor SM1/58


I have a list of Mabie Todd information which includes the various colour patterns that they used pre- and post-war.  Unfortunately, there are gaps and number 58 which is what this pen is, is one of those gaps so I will have to title it myself.  It looks like sage, bronze and black to me, so that’s what it’s called.
These colourful Swan Minors never cease to surprise me.  There is always another one coming along that I haven’t seen before.  This one is subtler than, say, the Italian marble pattern.  If there is something occurring in nature that it resembles, I can’t think what it might be, though I suppose there might be all sorts of patterns to copy from geology.
People seem to have prized these pens as many of them, like this one, are in excellent condition.  Though it has clearly been used, as I had to flush ink out of the section, it is unmarked and has obviously been handled with care.  Not many pens of this age that have been used show so few signs of it.
As is so often the case with Swan Minors, it is a charm to write with.  The number one nib is smooth and has considerable flexibility allowing for pleasing line variation.


Edit to add:  Eric Wilson tells me it is called “Marine Bronze”.

A Different Leverless

I think I’d better start by saying that this isn’t my pen.  Once again thanks are due to
Paul Leclercq for the opportunity to show and write about this beautiful pen.
I see so many black Leverless Swans that I almost forget that they can come in other
colours, but here’s a fine reminder.  I believe this colour was known as Brown/Amber.  It
closely resembles the Tigers Eye gemstone and I think this too, would be a fair name for
it.  Whatever it’s called, it’s very beautiful.
Pens are practical instruments, too, and must write.  This one performs extremely well.
The number three nib is very elegant and in this case it’s flexible too.  It’s an absolute
joy to write with.  In recent years Leverlesses have lost popularity because so many of
them were being re-sacced as if they were lever fillers.  Restored that way, Leverlesses
just don’t work.  Properly repaired, as this one is, with a sac that completely fills the
barrel, a Leverless will hold its own with any other pen of a similar size.  This pen holds
a lot of ink!
For those who take an interest in such matters, this particular pen had an exceptionally
thick peg to fit the sac on.  This meant that straight sac could be used instead of a
necked one.  It’s a pity that all the Leverlesses were not made in that way.
There is no code on the barrel end; all there is is “L3” on the section.  If we were to
extrapolate from this to the full code I believe it would be L3064, the last two digits
being the code for Brown/Amber.
This pen is a considerable rarity.  I’ve never seen one before and I’m grateful for the
opportunity to record it here.  I’ll also be copying it to John Brindle for the Swan list.